Former Knicks star Charles Oakley was dragged from his courtside seat at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday and arrested during a game between New York and the Los Angeles Clippers. The burly ex-forward had reportedly gotten into a verbal altercation with Knicks owner James Dolan before engaging physically with members of the arena’s security staff.
Soooooo Charles Oakley just got into a fight at he Knicks game. pic.twitter.com/klZBD89VI7— Ian Schafer (@ischafer) February 9, 2017
Shortly after the altercation, which occurred in the first quarter of a contest nationally televised on ESPN, the Knicks issued this statement: “Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner. He has been ejected and is currently being arrested by the New York City Police Department.
“He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.”
Sports writers on the scene reported that Oakley said, “Dolan did this,” among other shouted comments about the owner after being led away by security. Knicks president Phil Jackson attempted to calm down the 53-year-old down, who was yelling, “This is bullish–,” and, “F— that, let me go.” Oakley was charged with three counts of assault, according to multiple reports citing the NYPD.
BREAKING: Charles Oakley charged with 3 counts of assault and is being held at @NYPDMTS, police sources said.— myles miller (@MylesMill) February 9, 2017
“I didn’t say anything to [Dolan],” Oakley told the New York Daily News, after being released from a Manhattan police station late Wednesday evening. “I swear on my mother. They came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there. I bought the ticket. I said why do you guys keep staring at me. Then they asked me to leave. And I said I’m not leaving.”
Oakley, who played for the Knicks from 1988 to 1998 and was selected for the 1994 All-Star Game, became a fan favorite at the Garden while developing a reputation as one of the NBA’s toughest players. However, he has been in something of an exile from the organization, an awkward situation Oakley has blamed on Dolan.
“The boss don’t like me,” Oakley told the New York Times in October. He went on to say of Dolan, “I mean, I had at least 15 people try to set up a meeting. He won’t meet. I want to sit down to talk to him. I want me and him in a room. And lock the door. Lock that door!”
Oakley added, “I mean, he can have the police outside the door.”
“As hard as I played for that motherf—–, and he don’t want to talk with me?” Oakley exclaimed about Dolan in 2015 (via the New York Daily News). “Everybody in New York liked me except this one guy. . . . He’s a bad guy.”
The incident Wednesday just adds to the turmoil surrounding the Knicks, who have plummeted to 22-31 (going into the game against Clippers) amid an all-too-public feud between Jackson and his star player, Carmelo Anthony. The team president is making little secret of his desire to trade Anthony, who has a clause in his contract giving him veto power over any proposed move.
With Oakley intimidating opponents alongside Patrick Ewing, the Knicks made the playoffs every season he was with the team (he also played for the Bulls, Raptors, Wizards and Rockets in a 19-year career). However, New York has reached the postseason just four times since 2002 — Dolan took control of the team in 1999 — and has gotten as far as the second round once in that span.
The ugly scene at MSG came one year to the day after the Knicks fired head coach Derek Fisher, brought in the season before with no previous experience at the job and handed a talent-deficient squad with a mandate to run Jackson’s favored triangle offense. On Feb. 8, 2015, reports emerged of Dolan’s response to a letter he had received from an elderly fan lamenting the team’s direction. Dolan called the fan “a sad person,” “a hateful mess” and likely an “[a]lcoholic” before telling the man to “start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks don’t want you.”
Charles Oakley has been upset that the franchise, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary, haven't included him in any events.— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) February 9, 2017
Charles Oakley has been critical of the Knicks and James Dolan. His punishment has been no tickets and banishment from the organization.— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) February 9, 2017
It's a sad story because Charles, a beloved Knick, gave this franchise everything he had. He embodied what the Knicks should represent.— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) February 9, 2017
Charles Oakley is here tonight. This is beyond sad. pic.twitter.com/Ecd99ZGYSP— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) February 9, 2017